The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 4, 2008

Engineer to evaluate feasibility of Village Court expansion

The Carlisle Housing Authority has nearly completed the request for proposals (RFP) to build 24 units of affordable housing on the Benfield land on South Street, and hopes to move ahead on other fronts. On June 26, the committee met with the Carlisle Affordable Housing Trust in joint session to coordinate ongoing plans. The two committees are also pursuing an affordable accessory apartment (AAA) bylaw (see article below) and a possible expansion of the Carlisle Village Court senior housing on Church Street.

The Village Court expansion would involve tying the development into the Carlisle School’s underutilized wastewater treatment plant so that land now devoted to the septic system could support additional housing. Stamsky and McNary engineers estimate the cost for a feasibility study at $1,500 to $2,000. The Housing Trust has $50,000 funded by the 2006 Town Meeting for pursuing affordable housing opportunities, and it was agreed this would be an appropriate use.

It had been expected that Village Court Chair Bert Williams would be at the meeting. When he did not appear, the vote to support allocating a maximum of $2,000 to the study was taken anyway. Administrative Coordinator Elizabeth Barnett said that two or three meetings had taken place with the Village Court representatives and “there’s interest and some who aren’t sure (but) I don’t think anybody’s against it.” Many residents hope an expansion could include a new senior center, and Barnett said that the state’s “Smart Growth” initiative would prioritize funding for a facility with combined uses.

Doug Stevenson wondered if there were any roadblocks to tying into the treatment plant. Housing Authority Chair Alan Lehotsky said the state funded a very small percentage of the plant as part of a school building project, and if there were problems with its use for non-school purposes, it would be economic to just give the money back. Expanded use of the plant would be a financial win for the school, which could share operating costs and dispense with the current need to feed the system dog food to keep it running during the summer. However, it was agreed that town counsel and the Board of Selectmen will be consulted before the funds are disbursed. After the meeting, Board of Health Agent Linda Fantasia mentioned that it may be necessary to create a municipal water district if the treatment plant is to serve any private or nonprofit properties.

Benfield RFP nears completion

Barnett said that a meeting was held with State Representative Cory Atkins to gain her support for Benfield “in a very competitive funding environment.” Atkins was impressed that the town is offering land and infrastructure, and pleased with Carlisle’s collaboration with other towns and the state. A meeting with State Senator Susan Fargo will be also scheduled later this summer.

Carlisle is also asking Atkins to back a proposed change to the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) regulations. Currently, for every eight units of affordable housing added, Carlisle can enforce a one-year moratorium on new 40B developments, with a maximum of two years from a single project of 16 units or more. Carlisle would like to be able to apply the 24 units at Benfield to a three-year moratorium. Barnett noted that for towns with small quotas such as Carlisle’s, a project sized to achieve the two-year mark is too small to be financially feasible, and those towns should be allowed a longer moratorium period per project.

Lehotsky reported that a DHCD asset coordinator has reviewed the Benfield RFP and identified “some things we need to look at.” The comments have been forwarded to town counsel with the expectation the final RFP will be ready for release mid- to end of July. Six developers appeared at a public hearing on the RFP and two others expressed interest. All seem to be interested companies with 20 to 30 years experience.

In the near term, the group decided to advertise offering free hay for anyone willing to mow the Benfield land. ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito